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‘I Love You, Man’ changes romantic comedy formula

April 9, 2009

Romantic comedies have always been a genre of formulaic and predictable storylines. An outline of these scripts will usually consist of the old, tired “boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy wins back girl.” For some reason, we still tend to love these exhausted plot elements. Every so often, a romantic comedy will come along that brings a new point of view or approach to the material, and gives us a breath of fresh air. “I Love You, Man” is definitely that, as it takes the usual elements and makes a unique, yet quirky romantic comedy for guys.

Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd) has finally got the guts to ask his girlfriend Zooey (Rashida Jones, best known from “The Office”) to marry him, despite being in a relationship for only eight months. Peter is completely devoted to her, and spends all of his time with her, rather than with his buddies (this is simply because he doesn’t have any). Both he and his family agree that he has always been more of a “girlfriend guy.” This brings about the dilemma of a best man for Peter. After overhearing Zooey and her friends talking about her friendless fiancée, Peter decides to find a guy to befriend him in time for the couple to tie the knot. He comes across several strange guys, almost bringing him to defeat. But he soon meets Sydney Fife (“Forgetting Sarah Marshall’s” Jason Segel) at an open house for Lou Ferrigno, and they hit it off nicely. Peter spends a lot of time with Sydney, “slappin’ da bass” (Peter’s words, verbatim) and going to Rush concerts, while simultaneously altering his relationship with Zooey.

This is certainly a movie for frat guys. It is profane, vulgar and a bunch of other words that give the impression of the frequent use of naughty words. But the relationship between Sydney and Peter is a peculiar one, as it plays out like a boy-girl relationship you would see in a conventional romantic comedy. In this case, boy meets boy, boy loses boy and boy wins boy back. But it is done in entirely platonic and un-erotic fashion. Frat guys and teenage boys alike can now enjoy a romantic comedy while avoiding any scrutiny for it by their peers. 

If this flick has any down side at all, it is in its disjointedness. Clocking in at just less than two hours, it can be tedious viewing at some points. What could have easily been a 90-minute movie with a fine-tuned editing job ends up stretching the plot excessively over the course of its running time. There are unnecessary scenes, but they all come out funny and charming to some degree.

“I Love You, Man” may very well be the funniest comedy of the year so far. Rudd and Segel make a dynamic “couple,” as they fill in their niche roles very nicely and have a potent chemistry alongside one another. Rudd’s character is a highly likeable yet socially awkward one, while Sydney is like the charming and somewhat obnoxious guy from high school that still has not grown up. “I Love You, Man” can be tedious at times, but is a crude and funny time at the movies nonetheless.

José Cruz Jr. is a student at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.